The Podcast Glossary

When you take your first steps into podcasting and audio production it can feel like you’re learning a whole new language. There’s many different terms and words present in books and articles about the craft. Sometimes it can be hard to find a quick definition of something without falling down a confusing rabbit hole. That’s where The Podcast Glossary comes in.

This is your one stop shop for quickly finding out what something means, and if it’s not listed here, let us know and we’ll add it in for you.

Bit Depth (recording/production)

You will usually be asked to select a bit depth prior to recording a piece of audio. The most common bit depths are 16, 24, and 32. Each audio sample (see ‘Sample Rates’ – these appear as little dots in your waveform) has a ‘bit depth’ which determines the quality of the sound. For spoken word content, recording at 16 bit is absolutely fine.

Bit Rates (recording/production)

Kbps (kilobits per second) is your file’s bitrate. This tells you (and let’s you determine) how many kilobits of data are stored in each second of an audio file. A ‘bit’ is a measurement of data on a computer, and 1000 bits make up a single kilobit.

Kbps is only really relevant when you convert from WAV to MP3 when you’ll be offered a choice on which bit rate to select. As you may have guessed, the higher the bit rate, the higher the file size. So it’s important to find a balance.

For more info on this, check out What Bitrate Should I Use For a Podcast?

Clipping (recording/production)

Your waveform exists inside its own rectangular shaped box or window. That window has a floor and a ceiling. The loudest parts of your waveform are displayed as spikes. During recording, if these spikes touch the floor or ceiling of the window and can’t go any further the audio has ‘clipped’. The most common solution to this during recording is to reduce your gain/input levels.

Compression (recording/production)

Applying ‘compression’ to an audio file means that your DAW is going to bring the loudest parts and the quietest parts of your audio closer together. This can help you to achieve a much more consistent volume level throughout your episode.

You’ll usually find compression options inside your DAWs ‘Effects’ menu. Some recorders and mixers also allow you to run compression as you record, as opposed to applying it during the post-production phase. For an in-depth look at compression, check out our Audacity video course.

Condenser Microphone (equipment)

The two most common types of microphone nowadays are condenser and dynamic. A condenser microphone requires its own power source – either a battery or what’s known as “Phantom Power” supplied through a mixer, preamp, or recorder.

Traditionally, condenser microphones are more sensitive, and used to accurately capture the vocal performances of singers and actors in a studio environment.

Have a look at our Podcast Equipment Directory for a list of condenser mics we’ve reviewed.

DAW (recording/production)

This stands for Digital Audio Workstation, and simply means the editing software you’ll use to mix your shows together. A commonly used DAW in the world of podcasting is Audacity, which is absolutely free. We have a video course on Audacity right here.

An increasingly popular DAW is Reaper, which is powerful and heavily customisable. You can get Reaper for a one-off payment of $60. My personal favourite is Adobe Audition.  However, there’s a monthly cost of around $25 to use this DAW which puts many people off.

Directories (podcast distribution)

A podcast directory is like a shop where listeners can find your show. By far the most popular directory is iTunes. After that, there’s Stitcher and TuneIn. Spotify and Google Play Music are getting in on the act too, although these services aren’t fully developed just yet.

You don’t upload your show to podcast directories, you use a media host for that. When you sign up to a media host you get a special URL called an RSS feed. When you submit your feed to a podcast directory it means your show can be downloaded and subscribed to on that platform.

Dynamic Microphone (equipment)

The two most common types of microphone nowadays are condenser and dynamic.

A dynamic microphone doesn’t require its own power supply in the way a condenser mic does. Traditionally dynamic mics are less sensitive and more hard wearing, which makes them popular in the world of live music.

Have a look at our Podcast Equipment Directory for a list of dynamic mics we’ve reviewed.

Dynamic Range (recording/production)

Quite simply, this is the range of different volume levels within a piece of audio. This is a term more commonly talked about in music production circles, but in podcasting you could say that your dynamic range should be consistent, with no huge differences between your loudest and quietest parts.

EQ (recording/production)

Also known as Equaliser and Equalisation. This is a process that lets you decrease or increase specific frequencies within your audio. For example, if you record an interview outside and it’s windy, that will be picked up in the recording as a very low, rumbling sound. The distortion here is all low frequency, and you can use EQ to minimise it’s effect.

EQ appears in your DAW in a window that looks a bit like a radio mixing desk, where each band of frequencies has a little fader that you can drag down to decrease, or pull up to increase. For an in-depth look at EQ, check out our Audacity video course.

Gain (recording/production)

It’s not entirely correct to refer to Gain as a volume setting, though in a sense, it is your input volume setting. Gain is really just a way of increasing or decreasing the sensitivity of your mic.

When you hit record your audio is picked up as a signal. Loud audio is referred to as a strong signal, whilst quiet audio is referred to as a weak signal. Increasing gain makes your signal stronger, whilst decreasing it makes your signal weaker.

The main difference between volume and gain is that gain controls what is going in to your equipment, whilst volume controls what is coming out. It’s good practice to set your gain levels before you hit record, and not tinker with them once you’re actually recording.

Hard Limiting (recording/production)

Hard limiting allows you to chop off or flatten the peaks of your waveform to a certain level, using the decibel (dB) scale that runs vertically alongside your waveform.

This allows you to flatten everything over, for example, -6dB. You can use this process to balance out your waveform and give it a more consistent shape and sound in the production process.

High-Pass Filter (recording/production)

An Equalisation/EQ technique used to minimise or remove low frequencies (wind noise, mic handling noise, knocking boom stand, mic popping, etc) from your audio.

For an in-depth look at EQ, check out our Audacity video course.

ID3 Tags (audio files)

Also known as Metadata. This is the information embedded into your MP3 which helps organise files on your listener’s computer or device. This includes things like podcast name, episode title, the podcaster’s name (or business), episode number, and cover art. Your DAW will give you an option to add this information once you’ve mixed your episode down. Alternatively, you can use iTunes.

Low-Pass Filter (recording/production)

An Equalisation/EQ technique used to minimise or remove high frequencies from your audio. Less commonly used than its high pass counterpart, but can still come in handy for fixing distortion sometimes found in recordings of Skype or phone interviews.

Media Hosting (podcast distribution)

A media host is a website/service you’ll sign up and create an account with when you launch your show. Your media host is basically where your podcast episodes live.

Once you create an account and fill out your show details (title, description etc) your media host will give you an RSS feed. You can then submit this RSS feed to various podcast directories like iTunes, so that your show can be listed there.

The two most popular media hosts are Blubrry and Libsyn.

Metadata (audio files)

Also known as ID3 tags. This is the information embedded into your MP3 which helps organise files on your listener’s computer or device.

This includes things like podcast name, episode title, the podcaster’s name or business, episode number, and cover art. Your DAW will give you an option to add this information once you’ve mixed your episode down.

Alternatively, you can use iTunes.

Mixer (equipment)

An audio interface that allows you to mix together other elements into your show as you record, rather than editing them in in the post-production phase. Using a mixer enables you to bring in your intro, outro, and transition music into your show “as live”.

You can also use a mixer to record multiple interviewees or co-hosts, as well as Skype calls, and on-line broadcasts.

Have a look at our Podcast Equipment Directory for a list of mixers we’ve reviewed.

Mixing (recording/production)

Mixing is a common term for editing your podcast together. This process is also referred to as production, post-production, or just plain old editing.

Mixing Down (recording/production)

When you’re happy with your mix in the editing process, you’ll then ‘mix down’ or ‘bounce down’ everything to one single audio file. This is the mixing down process.

Mono Audio (recording/production)

A mono track appears as one single waveform in your DAW, whilst a stereo track appears as two – one above the other, the top one being the left side, and the bottom one being the right side).

Stereo tracks can offer different sounds from the right to the left hand side, which give a stereo effect when listening through headphones or speakers. A mono track will play exactly the same audio on either side.

It’s good practice to record spoken word content in mono. The only real case for creating a podcast in stereo is if your show has a lot of music, or is a highly produced documentary or audio drama. Stereo WAV files are virtually twice the size of mono WAV files, but this difference is eliminated if you convert down to MP3 format.

Multitrack (recording/production)

When you work with multiple (more than one) audio track during the editing process, this is called a multitrack, or multitracking.

MP3 File (audio files)

An MP3 is a type of audio file, and the type you’ll use to distribute your podcast episodes. MP3s were designed to be small and not take up too much room when data storage on computers was an issue back in the day.

Nowadays, this makes them ideal for quick and low-bandwidth uploading and downloading. The trade off with an MP3 is that they are a “lossy” format, meaning some audio quality is lost when they are crushed down to their small size.

This can be an issue for some musicians and audiophiles. However, there are few people who can tell the difference between an MP3 and a WAV file, especially with purely spoken word content.

Noisefloor (recording/production)

Even if you’re recording in complete silence in a sound treated room, the recording will still pick up a very low level of noise. Depending on equipment this can be heard as a light hissing, or buzzing, or it might be inaudible to most human ears unless it’s amplified to a higher volume.

Noisefloor is really just the static from your recording equipment working away in the background.

Normalisation (recording/production)

Inside your DAW you’ll find a Normalisation effect which allows you to make your waveform bigger or smaller (thus changing the sound levels) based on its loudest peaks. Normalising audio won’t change the shape of your waveform (like Hard Limiting or Compression will), but it will change its size.

For more on Normalisation and other production techniques, check out our Audacity video course.

Peaking (recording/production)

The highest points of your waveform are referred to as ‘peaks’. Using these as a guide, alongside the vertical decibel scale running alongside your audio track, you can read that the waveform is “peaking” at -3dB, -6dB, etc.

Some audio producers use the terms “peaking” and “clipping” synonymously.

Phantom Power (equipment)

Phantom power is an option found on most recorders, mixers, and preamps. It allows you to send power to condenser microphones.

It commonly appears as a button marked “+48V”.

Plug-ins

Plug-ins are additional features you can install on your DAW or website to give you extra control and customisation options. Plugins are commonly created by third party sources, and in rare cases they can conflict with each other and cause issues.

Post-Production (recording/production)

Another term for mixing/editing. Though you can also use the term “production” some argue that the production is the thing you to to create your source material, thus what you do afterwards (editing, mixing down) is actually “post-production”.

Polar Patterns (equipment)

Microphones have polar patterns built into them which determine the areas and directions they predominantly record or “hear” from. Microphone polar patterns are bi-directional, cardioid, hypercardioid, omnidirectional, shotgun, subcardioid, and supercardioid.

Preamp (equipment)

An audio interface similar to a mixer that acts as a bridge between your microphone and your recording platform. A preamp will give you added control over things like gain, and provide phantom power for condenser microphones.

Have a look at our Podcast Equipment Directory for a list of preamps we’ve reviewed.

Room Tone (recording/production)

Similar to noisefloor, this is really just the sound of the room you’re recording in. It’s good practice to leave 5-10 seconds of room tone at the start of your recording for noise reduction purposes.

RSS Feed (podcast distribution)

This is a unique link your media host will give you when you sign up for an account and create your podcast series. You can use your RSS feed to submit your show to various podcast directories (like iTunes) so it can be listed/listened/subscribed to there.

Sample Rates (recording/production)

You’ll have the option to select a Sample Rate prior to hitting record in your DAW or digital recorder. Sample rates are measured in ‘hertz’ or ‘Hz’, which means cycles per second.Each sample appears visually as a dot which is visible if you zoom right in on a waveform.

The higher the sample rate number, the more times the audio has been ‘sampled’. This determines audio quality and also file size.

If you think of your audio file as a photograph, the sample rate is essentially just like the amount of pixels that make up an image. The sample rate of 44100Hz is standard for music and CDs, and is the ideal rate to record all your podcast audio at. If you want to learn a bit more about sample rates, check out What Does 44100 Mean?

Stereo Audio (recording/production)

A mono track appears as one single waveform in your DAW, whilst a stereo track appears as two – one above the other, the top one being the left side, and the bottom one being the right side).

Stereo tracks can offer different sounds from the right to the left hand side, which give a stereo effect when listening through headphones or speakers. A mono track will play exactly the same audio on either side.

It’s good practice to record spoken word content in mono. The only real case for creating a podcast in stereo is if your show has a lot of music, or is a highly produced documentary or audio drama.

Stereo WAV files are virtually twice the size of mono WAV files, but this difference is eliminated if you convert down to MP3 format.

Submitting a Podcast (podcast distribution)

The process of entering your RSS feed and show details into a podcast directory, (like iTunes) so it can be listed/listened/subscribed to there.

Uploading a Podcast (podcast distribution)

Once you’ve put together your episode as an MP3 file, you can then upload it to your media host, in order for it to be downloaded by your listeners.

USB Microphone (equipment)

A microphone that is connected to your computer via a USB cable. Have a look at our Podcast Equipment Directory for the list of USB mics we’ve reviewed.

Waveform (recording/production)

A waveform is the visual representation of your audio when displayed in a digital form on your computer.

WAV File (audio files)

A WAV is a high quality audio file that captures sound exactly as it is recorded. Though you should work in WAV form with your source material, you will convert your finished episodes to MP3 format for size and bandwidth purposes.

If you think of a WAV as an original painting, the MP3 is like a print of that painting. Some quality has been lost in the conversion, but to 99% of people it isn’t noticeable.

XLR Microphone (equipment)

A microphone that is connected to a mixer, preamp, or recorder via an XLR (microphone) cable.

Have a look at our Podcast Equipment Directory for the list of XLR mics we’ve reviewed.

Have We Missed Anything?

We’ll continue to build this glossary out over time, so if there’s any terms or phrases in podcasting you’re still not sure of just let us know in the comments section, or by e-mailing [email protected]

In the meantime, you might want to check out or guide on How to Start a Podcast now that you’re hopefully feeling a bit more confident about all this stuff.